Saturday, February 24, 2018

Queen Elizabeth II to mark 'diamond jubilee' with pageantry

As Britain's Queen Elizabeth II commemorates her 60th year on the throne, her Diamond Jubilee is drawing an estimated one million people to London for a four-day fete starting Saturday.

In in terms of sheer pageantry, it will dwarf last year's nuptials of her grandson Prince William and his bride, Catherine.

Aboard a royal barge, the monarch will lead a 1,000-vessel flotilla down the Thames in a majestic scene inspired by a Canaletto painting. A network of 2,012 beacons will be lit in her honor from the Scottish Highlands to the Channel Islands. Paul McCartney and Elton John will serenade her at a glittering concert outside Buckingham Palace.

Though support for the monarchy has always been strong, a new opinion poll by Ipsos Mori shows eight out of every 10 Britons want to keep the monarchy — the highest level since surveys began in the 1980s.

And as Britain readies for the Diamond Jubilee, the monarchy is all about her.

"At 86, the queen is having her star turn," said Dickie Arbiter, the queen's former spokesman.

The queen was coronated on June 2, 1953. The rare occasion of a 60th year on the throne — only Queen Victoria also made it this far — appears to have refocused Britain on her.

Newspapers on both the political right and left are running gushing tributes. British cities great and small are being festooned with Union Jacks for more than 10,000 street parties (about double the number held for last year's royal wedding). Merchandisers are minting everything from Diamond Jubilee retro lingerie to vintage champagne. Andrew Lloyd Webber penned a song. Two national holidays have been declared.

"We look across the pond and we see America tearing itself apart over politics and over here, we're thinking, there's a lot to be said for a constitutional monarchy," royal biographer Robert Lacey said. "We are recognizing the queen more and more as the independent national figure that unites all of us, and the one constant in our lives for the past 60 years."

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